My husband left for a work trip at the beginning of last week. Comically, things inevitably fall apart when he leaves town, so I was mostly braced for the thrashings. And there were some, of course. Landon has been a clingy, needy baby like I haven’t seen since the colic days of Adalyn, so that made for a fun week. I was right in the middle of cleaning our house of detergent, so there was tons of superwashing to be done and floors to be scrubbed with soap, etc.
We made some massive strides in improving Adalyn’s eczema this week. I turned the air up and clothed them, mostly from head-to-toe, in eczema gear. Pants with attached “feet,” onesies with built-in mittens, and Scratch Me Not mitten sleeves (which are a Godsend, as it turns out). We bathed multiple times a day, lathering them in aquaphor after baths and once again, covering them from head-to-toe. We bandaged up the open wounds and kissed lots of “ouchies.”
On Wednesday, I began to notice that Landon’s face was getting pretty intense looking. His face is usually scratched and scabbed up, but this was different.
I sent a picture to my friend, who said it could be impetigo, then my mom said the same, so I googled it and figured this must be what it was. So I called the doctor and asked for a prescription for antibiotics. We really dislike antibiotics because they totally wreck our kids’ guts, but there is a definite time and place for them, and skin infection of this severity needs to be addressed.
I loaded the kids up and took them to Target to have the prescription filled Thursday morning. It was by far the worst trip I’ve had with the kids in regards to their eczema. As you can imagine, people reacted quite strongly to Landon’s face. Most looked horrified. There were quite a few double-takes and the cashier literally just stared at him while checking us out. I could not get out of that place fast enough. My cheeks were flushed the whole time and I just wanted to shield my babies from the gawking. I wanted to hide them under a blanket.
I started the antibiotics and we went on our merry way, assuming everything would get patched up quickly.
I went back to the house scrubbing and the intense reading/researching and started jotting down new ideas to try. Having an infection that required antibiotics really drove home the point that we have got to get to the bottom of their eczema. We can’t continue on like this. They are always at heightened risk of infection because their skin is cracked, raw and open 100% of the time.
All three of us were sick during the week, but again, it was more humorous than anything because as we’ve gotten so accustomed to, stuff just happens when Tim’s away. I think I might have gotten three hours of sleep on one singular night last week. The rest of the week it was a broken 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there, shuffling between Landon and Adalyn’s room as they cried out. I love my children, but I would really love it if they learned to sleep. Landon will be one in a few weeks and he wakes up every 1.5 hours consistently. It’s insane. Although can you blame them? They are up clawing at their own flesh all night long, fighting that intense urge to scratch that is so common in eczema sufferers.
Friday night, as I was letting go of some tension and anxiety knowing that Tim would be home the following day, I ended up staying up way too late, reading site after site about eczema. I’m amazed by how many different potential “cures” there are, and sometimes I can get sucked in for hours making mental notes of what to keep trying.
And then I happened upon a picture of eczema herpeticum. In all my years of research, I can honestly say I’ve never stumbled across this term. But the moment I saw the picture of the “punched-out” blisters, my heart sank. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was what Landon actually had. And then I nearly had a heart attack when I read the next few lines, which went a little something like this:
So I googled some more. Article after article said the same: “dermatologic emergency,” “fatal,” “can be life-threatening,” “severe skin infection that requires immediate medical attention,” “The number of days between onset and diagnosis drastically affects the number of days in the hospital,” “often misdiagnosed as impetigo,” “requires antiviral medicine,” “very rare,” etc., etc., etc. What drove it all home was that it is caused by the herpes simplex virus infecting open eczema lesions. I’d had a cold sore the week before.
I felt the blood drain from my face. I had misdiagnosed Landon and just assumed he was totally fine now that he was on antibiotics, I was the one with the cold sore who kissed him and infected his eczema with my virus. It was 3:00 a.m. and I frantically emailed my doctor and called my husband, who was still out of town. Should I take him to the ER now? Wait til morning? What if he died between now and morning? Is that even a possibility?
The questions came and came…and came. We decided together to wait until morning. I could get a few hours of sleep, Landon seemed to be in decent spirits so probably wasn’t knocking on death’s door and I wouldn’t have to wake the kids up. In the morning, Landon’s face had gotten a little better but Adalyn had a blazing fever and was so pathetically sick. Of course. So I lugged the kiddos to Children’s Mercy, where the doctor took one look and said, “Oh, that’s eczema herpeticum. Has anyone in your house had a cold sore recently?” Punch. In. The. Gut.
She told us they may very well have to hospitalize him, and once again, my heart sank. She said she’d consult with the dermatologist and since he seemed to be in good spirits, she’d push to allow him to come home with us and do the medicine and skin treatment regimen at home. Ten nail-biting moments later, she came back and said I could take him home as long as I promised to come back if the sores spread, particularly anywhere near his eyes. I did, of course, and they sent us on our way with lots of instruction and four prescriptions.
And now, here we are, Sunday evening, with three very sick kiddos who need lots of cuddling and kisses. But a grateful heart, because it could have been so much worse. And I know that. The what-ifs are killing me. Why had I just happened upon this obscure mention of eczema herpeticum when I wasn’t even looking up anything to do with skin infection? What would have happened if I hadn’t? If I’d gone on assuming it was impetigo? It’s too much for this mama’s heart.
I believe I learned something I needed to learn this week. I’ve been so, well, whatever about skin infection. I’ve read time and time again how prone to serious skin infection kids with severe eczema are, but I guess after all this time and never having contracted one, I had become dangerously indifferent to the whole idea.
Now, my sweet little boy has a high likelihood of battling this skin infection for life. They said just like cold sores, once you have it once, you have it forever. The virus will stay dormant in his body, and every open sore is at an extreme risk of becoming eczema herpeticum. Every illness he has will put him at high risk of an outbreak. It’s a lot to take, because my heart aches for my baby. But in the end, this will be a blessing in disguise, because to learn first hand that my baby could actually die because of his eczema is all I need to know to stop at nothing to solve this.
I’ve hit a fork in the road: go left, cross our fingers and hope they grow out of it, or go right, fight like mad and do whatever it takes to fix this for good.
What a friggin’ week.
Because I should end on a positive note (and this is VERY positive), Adalyn’s face now has NO eczema on it! Praise the Lord! NONE (this picture is two days old so there was still a tiny bit of eczema left). Her wrists and ankles have improved leaps and bounds this week. I am so very, very thankful!
I recently read an article bashing the “food cult” that I’m apparently part of (food cult=caring about what I eat, eating local, sustainably, organic, etc). This article on stevia could not be a better representation of exactly why I began the switch years and years ago to this “cult.”
In 1991, the FDA refused to approve the use of the whole plant stevia (after being pressured by companies that made artificial chemical sweeteners). But when Coca-Cola and Pepsi jumped on board and wanted to use a chemically-altered version of stevia (NOT the whole plant), the FDA approved THAT in 2008. Truvia, Coca-Cola’s brand of stevia, undergoes a 40 step process of production. It includes ingredients that are not from the plant stevia. And historically speaking, this has a completely unproven track record with no real knowledge of how this will impact our health. But the plant, you know, the one that grows in the ground and has a track record far surpassing almost every item on the grocery store shelves? How terrifying. Why would the FDA want to approve such a frightening substance?
This is exactly what began my fall from a major political party. Unless there is massive reform, I’m certain I’ll never vote for a major political party candidate again. There are so many other things incredibly similar to this issue that should, quite frankly, scare us. When our government officials take money from major corporations, nothing good can or will come from it. This is why I don’t trust anything but a long, proven history of success when it comes to food. And most of the food on the shelves these days (and even much of the produce) is not proven and has a really short history.
Thanks to modern medicine, we have been able to live longer than our ancestors. Without doing any research, it would be easy to conclude that we are healthier than ever and all these changes we’ve made have been beneficial to our population. But sadly, it takes only a few minutes to dig up enough research to prove the common sense angle of, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
-Diabetes cases in children have skyrocketed.
-Advanced breast cancer on the rise in younger women
-Thyroid cancer is on the rise
-Esophageal cancer is on the rise
-Autoimmune disease is on the rise
-The obesity epidemic is “astronomical”
-Allergies among US kids is on the rise
-Eczema is on the rise.
I could continue to go on and on and on. Admittedly, there could be so many different factors at play here. I’m not here to say that I know that the state of food in our country is directly responsible for all of the above. I have no idea. That’s why I didn’t stop at food. It wasn’t enough to go back to old school ways of eating (and by that, I mean that I actually seek out local foods much more than organic, which often times aren’t too much better than their conventional counterparts). I knew that to really give my family the best shot at being healthier, we had to live old school in general. Before the days of chemical-laden everything, before the days of food being chemically and genetically altered, wrapped in plastic and shipped across countries, before the days of cramming our schedules so full that we didn’t have time to cook our own food.
Stumbling onto this detergent idea has really driven home the point of returning to our roots. Eczema has been on the rise since the 50s, when detergent (ahem, chemicals) were introduced into the mainstream. And as the use of detergent continues to climb (as I’m learning, it’s in so much more than I ever could have imagined), the cases of eczema have been climbing. And asthma, and allergies, etc. Again, there is no way to prove that this is the sole cause, or that it was the reason for the climb, but enough moms have solved their children’s eczema by removing detergent and enough scientists and chemists have explained the reasons this makes sense that in my eyes, it’s just another sad side effect of our modern world. One that my family suffers for.
We can’t live in a bubble (as desirable as that sounds some days), but we clean with vinegar and water, we wash with old school soap, we brush our teeth with earthpaste (ingredients: clay, xylitol, tea tree oil sea salt and menthol), we wash our dishes and our clothes in castille soap and historically speaking, we’ve tried to utilize all the old school methods of living while rejecting as much of the modern conveniences as possible.
We have a long way to go, and there are a lot of things that would make more common sense to remove from our home that I can’t (like, um, cell phones…computers…microwaves…dryers), but I’m getting there. And it’s not out of snobbery, or because I’m in a cult, or because I’m judgey mcjudgerson. It’s just because I’ve seen what the modern day world has done to my own children, members of my family, myself, all those around us. And I want no part of it anymore.
But more than that, I believe that I have the power to effect change by refusing to buy what “the establishment” is selling (oh God, I just became embarrassingly hippie). If I choose to support local farmers who grow in a way that cares for our land instead of destroying it and I refuse to buy into the mindset being drilled into our brains that I need to replace my clothes every year with the new style, utilize all these amazing “advances” in food technology and polish my home with harsh and harmful (both to ourselves and our environment) chemicals or things won’t be really clean, I think I can be a tiny change. Make no mistake that when you buy that bag of Doritos or that cheap hamburger or that fat free or calorie free product, you’re doing exactly what these companies have programmed you to do. And as much as my former self would hate my current self and probably even laugh me out of the room, personal experience and a quench to learn has taught me that it’s not hippie or weird or crazy to think in this way. It’s really the only thing that makes sense when you break it down and actually think about it logically.
And I talk about it because, well, I guess I believe that if more people knew, they would change their shopping habits, too. And while we can’t fix the broken government or plea to Monsanto’s conscience to shut down their operations, we do collectively hold all of the power.
Peace out, my friends. I’ve got some patchouli to burn.
Fearful that this blog will become an eczema blog (sort of how it became a food blog…and before that, a sewing blog…and before that, you get the point…), I’ve started keeping another blog where I’ll keep up with our journey to heal the kids’ eczema there instead from here on out. I don’t want to inundate people who don’t care about eczema with nothing but eczema tales. :)
I can’t even put into words how helpful it’s been to have Sammy’s Skin. On days like the past few, when I’m feeling hopeless again with another setback, it calms my soul to go back into her archives and read her post when they were a few weeks into detergent removal and not seeing improvement. In hindsight, it’s easy to see that it just takes a long time to get all the detergent out of a home (I have been running laundry loads non-stop since last Saturday and have barely made a dent in all that needs to be super washed), and that setbacks are normal and expected, especially until the skin is totally healed. But perhaps without that resource (a child whose eczema was completely resolved by removing detergent!), I would give up now.
I figured documenting our journey might have the potential to help one other mama, and obviously that’s worth it. So if you have any friends whose children have eczema (even if it isn’t as severe as our kiddos), maybe you could recommend Sammy’s Skin and solveeczema.org and our blog journey.
Things had gotten better here, and then they got worse. Landon’s skin is raw again, Adalyn’s is scabbed up. Both are infected. Landon does this thing where all of a sudden, he’ll just start clawing at his face, crying, and before you know it, it’s ripped up and bleeding. If you try to stop him, he gets so frustrated and mad. Adalyn does it, too, but does at least seem to “get it” a little more, that the clawing leads to more pain. But they both definitely have scabs all over their faces. Adalyn’s wrists are bad again, although nothing like they were right before starting the detergent removal.
The one thing I can say that is a huge positive is that I can actually see the source of these flare-ups sometimes. I’ll see Adalyn rub her face against the couch and then two minutes later, break out exactly where she was rubbing. Though our couch has removable covers that I’ve superwashed, there’s nothing I can do about the cushions, which I’m sure are full of detergent residue, short of going out and buying new leather furniture which obviously is not in the budget at the moment. I’m hoping that once we have eliminated a lot of the sources, the smaller sources like furniture will be little enough exposure that they can handle it.
I found the solveeczema forums last week and between that, talking to AJ (who runs solveeczema) and finding other blogs with children similar to mine, I’ve pinpointed the things that have really seemed to help others.
-We ordered a small selection of organic clothing to see if it helps.
-We bought a water softener because as AJ noted, sometimes the combination of soap and detergent residue (which happens when you have hard water, as it’s almost impossible to get all residue out) creates a hyper itching period, which we definitely have experiened. After talking with her, I knew we had hard water (we have all the signs). I’ve been so disappointed in our switch to soap products. Everything has a film and nothing feels clean, including myself! She thinks having a water softener is extremely important in this process, and CJ from Sammy’s Skin noted that she hypothesizes that part of the reason it took them two months to see the eczema clear up is because they have hard water and no softener, so it took a long time to get the residues out. We haven’t had ours installed yet, but I’m so excited to see how much better the soap works once that bad boy is installed (I hear soap is dreamy if you have soft water and you can use so much less all around).
-We ordered a good water filter. I’ve been wanting the Berkey forever and a day, but could never quite justify it. Now that I’m learning just how much the toxins in our environment might be impacting my family (more than I ever suspected), and have been learning about all the chemicals, medicines and other toxins in the water in the USA, I want to try to get as many toxins out of their environment as is humanly possible. I ordered the countertop filter and the shower filter, as I’ve heard a lot of speculation that the chlorine levels really affect children with eczema. Additionally, there is quite a bit of debate about the use of flouride added to our water here, and as someone with hypothyroidism, I do not want flouride in my water . Not that flouride is bound to be the sole cause of my hypothyroidism, but I would sure love to get off the meds and perhaps there’s a chance this will be a stepping stone.
I’ve become so frustrated and fed up in the last few weeks. Our lives quite literally revolve around my children’s skin. As CJ said on her blog,
I always thought this would be the least of ailments that could strike my child. Eczema is “just dry skin” right? Just slap some moisturizer on it and it will get better. Allergies? Just keep them from the thing they are allergic to, right? No big deal!! Ha. No, this truly sucks (please forgive me, that is actually the worst my language gets, you know I am losing it when I say or type the word “sucks”) and the worst part is that nobody seems to have answers. Sam’s doctor and allergist are clearly just as confused as I am. “There is no reason for eczema!” Eczema just IS. Apparently. It has increased by crazy numbers over the past several decades, there must be a reason, why hasn’t anyone been able to figure this out yet!”
Yes, that, exactly. Eczema? Doesn’t sound so bad. No big deal, it’s just some dry skin. Except it’s not. At all. I haven’t been to church in…four months? Five? I can’t go because if Landon gets even a little tired, he handles it by clawing open his face. With the other children, even though church always fell right at naptime, we could push them through it. With Landon, we can’t. We can’t push him through any amount of tiredness, and certainly not expect the nursery workers to deal with this child screaming and clawing his face completely open and bloody.
I barely take my children out at all anymore. We’ve become recluses. We can rarely go anywhere without people commenting on their skin. Adalyn is old enough. She gets it. She understands. My mom said the other day she looked in the mirror and goes, “Oh no, my face!”
It breaks a mama’s heart. Eczema feels so much worse than what I always thought eczema was. Is it sad that this research study on the effects of eczema on mothers and families was relieving? Sometimes I’ve thought I’m overreacting, or that I can’t tell people how much it actually impacts our daily living because they’d be like, “Um, it’s just eczema.” I haven’t talked about all the tears I’ve shed over it or the amount of my days I spend thinking about their skin (it’s probably 75% of the day, to be honest). But something about someone saying, “Hey, we’ve studied this, it’s a really big deal, it’s really impactful on a family,” makes it feel okay. I shouldn’t have to have my feelings validated, but sometimes I do.
The children with eczema had a mean age of 2.8 years. Mothers of children aged 5 years or less with eczema exhibited significantly higher total stress scores (mean PSI 259.6, 95% CI 244.9 to 274.3) as compared to mothers of normal children (PSI 222.8, 95% CI 221.4 to 224.2) and children with other chronic disorders such as insulin‐dependent diabetes (PSI 218.1, 95% CI 204.7 to 231.6) and profound deafness (PSI 221.7, 95% CI 206.4 to 237.0). Stress scores in the parental domain (138.2, 95% CI 128.9 to 147.6) did not differ significantly from the scores of parents of children with severe disabilities such as those requiring home enteral feeding (135.2, 95% CI 129.3 to 141.1) and those with Rett syndrome (132.8, 95% CI 125.0 to 140.6).
Moderate to severe childhood eczema should be regarded as a significant illness in which maternal stress is equivalent to that associated with the care of children with severe developmental and physical problems.”
Atopic eczema is a common childhood disorder with a prevalence of 10–16% in westernised countries.1Caring for a child with moderate to severe eczema involves a rigorous skin treatment regime, adjustments to family lifestyle, and financial and social costs,2,3,4,5,6 which all can place substantial demands on the caregivers. Mothers are usually the primary caregivers and carry the major burden in caring for a child with a chronic condition.7 Stress will arise if mothers perceive that they cannot adequately cope with these burdens.8
There is little literature documenting the stress experienced by mothers who care for a child with eczema. Most studies have examined the impact of atopic dermatitis on the child, family functioning and quality of life, with a few studies examining the parent–child relationship. Studies that have reported on the experiences of mothers indicate that they describe themselves as more depressive, hopeless and anxiously overprotective.9 They report feeling stressed about their parenting skills, being less efficient in disciplining their child, and less likely to feel socially supported.10“
If you’re a mama with a child who has eczema, you may find the whole study to be strangely relieving.
So that’s that. We’re working really hard to do something about this once and for all. But it’s slow going. And we’re practically on quarantine. If you know us in real life, know that we’re not avoiding everyone on purpose.
For anyone else dealing with eczema, here’s a great little starter questionnaire from AJ @ solveeczema that I pulled from an article I’d highly recommend you read.
Or why I’m learning that everything I’ve thought was true may be wrong.
I want to start by saying that none of this detergent business will ever change my opinion that the only foods we were ever meant to consume are the ones straight from the earth and not chemically or genetically altered by man. For me, that’s a common sense issue. Our bodies were created in an amazing way, and regardless of your beliefs, it’s hard to deny that for all of time, we’ve been eating food, and then suddenly, in the last 5 decades or so, we’ve begun to eat food-like products. Perhaps someday we’ll evolve to eat these products without harm, because our bodies are amazing and adaptable. But we know that evolution takes a long time, so as for me and my family, we’re sticking with foods that we know our body recognizes as food. We have far too many diet-related diseases these days to even attempt to make the argument that the Standard American Diet is good for anyone. The only argument that seems legit is that it’s worth it to continue to eat the Standard American Diet, regardless of side effects, because, like smoking, they often take a long time to manifest and it’s hard as a species to discontinue pleasure now because of something we are at an increased chance of experiencing down the road. Look at how long it took for smoking to became more uncommon (but it certainly still exists!). Even I stop at McDonald’s sometimes, get Starbucks when I’m out shopping, eat chocolate chip cookies. Because I find a way to convince myself that the side effects from the food-like products are worth the satisfaction of eating them (or the ease of preparing processed foods, or the decreased cost of buying them, etc., we all have our own justifications and only you know if it’s truly worth it).
However, this detergent discovery has really changed my thoughts on food sensitivities. A.J. Lumsdaine, the author of Solveevzema.org, said this in an article I read:
“Eczema in babies is often blamed on food allergy, but A.J. knew from her chemistry lab days how hard it is to wash chemical residue from glass or plastic containers. She suspected some of her son’s apparent allergies were actually a reaction to detergent. When he first began eating solid foods, he seemed to be allergic to everything. For instance, he broke out in a rash after eating plain rice porridge A.J. had cooked herself. However, when she switched to soap-based dishwashing cleanser and washed away the detergent residue on the rice cooker, the baby began to eat her home-cooked porridge happily with no reaction. Store-bought foods were also a problem for him. “Many processed foods, especially produce that has to be washed as part of the processing, seem to contain enough traces of detergents to give our son contact eczema,” A.J. says. “It’s interesting to note that many of the foods people think of as causing eczema are also ones likely to accumulate detergent residue from processing, such as eggs and some dairy.”
Just a few weeks ago, I was lamenting the fact that Landon appears to be allergic to every food. It’s been a rare meal that I’ve sat him down to where he hasn’t started violently scratching his face to the point of a blood-soaked bib. Inside, I was frantic. The idea of having a child who is allergic to almost every food rocked me to my core, and I was terrified. It seemed as though each child was becoming more and more allergic than the one before. Ben is allergic to peanuts (this is a true allergy which has been confirmed with IgE levels), Adalyn appeared to be allergic to all sorts of things though I hadn’t been able to specifically pinpoint them and Landon? Well, he was pretty much allergic to every food I’d tried. Or so I thought.
Just two weeks ago we visited an allergist and were contemplating whether or not to run all the tests he had ordered for Adalyn (which we knew would set us back a couple thousand dollars and cause her quite a bit of pain and discomfort and the results of those tests are never accurate).
I’ve seen enough difference now in just a few short days that like I said yesterday, I’m pretty confident I can declare this a reaction to detergent. And since washing our dishes in Dr. Bronner’s diluted in water, Landon hasn’t had one meal episode of intense face scratching. He’s been eating the foods I’ve given him without incident. As has Adalyn, who also often appeared to turn red all around her mouth and began scratching after many meals. Because of that, I’d declared her “sensitive” to citrus, tomatoes, dairy, melons, wheat, the list goes on. That poor child was eating just a handful of foods because I was certain she was allergic to everything.
That’s not to say there won’t still be an element of food sensitivity to her or Landon’s eczema. But my theory is that eczema causes a weakened immune system (which is why my kids are ALWAYS sick), and a weakened immune system can contribute to the body’s inability to process certain foods. Totally my theory, but I’m so curious to see if once their skin clears up, they stop getting sick every single week and they begin to be able to tolerate any food I give them.
Truth be told, it would be much easier for my children to have a food intolerance than a detergent intolerance. Much. But if that’s not the reality of the situation, it does me no good to keep on assuming it’s a food intolerance when nothing I’ve eliminated has worked for them. The health world is so inundated with claims that we are now allergic to everything that it’s become ingrained in my psyche that my children must have food intolerances. This detergent thing is rocking my world, though.
Could it be possible that what we have grown to believe is widespread increases in food intolerance (not allergies, which are testable) are actually a widespread reaction to chemicals (detergent)? It’s not that crazy a theory, right? Maybe our gut issues are actually coming from detergents. The majority of our immune system is in our gut. It could of course all be coincidence, but for the first time since I can remember, Adalyn has had two days of zero digestion issues. I won’t elaborate further, but she has been plagued with tummy issues for as long as I can remember, which got much worse after her one round of antibiotics in December. Last night I was talking with my husband about it, and was like, “There’s no way it could be from the detergent,” but he reminded me that our immune system is in our gut, and as A.J. noted above, this detergent is getting into the gut at each meal via the dishes we eat on and the washing of the equipment used during processing. It could be just as likely that it’s the detergent our bodies are reacting to as it is the food. Detergent is naturally irritating to skin, albeit for some people, not enough to notice, so it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to assume it is also irritating inside of our bodies.
Like I said above, it’s easier to eliminate a food, or a food group, than it is to avoid detergents, which are everywhere. And it breaks my heart, because what does this mean for my children…for our family? My parents are coming this weekend, and we are going to great lengths to assure they don’t bring their detergent with them. We’re buying scrubs that they can wear while they’re in our home, which I will be superwashing before they get here. They’ll have to shower in Dr. Bronner’s before coming over and will be using our toothpaste while here. My mom has to wash her face and they have to leave their shoes in our garage. Even their luggage can’t come in. How sad is that?
While it’s easy to make a peanut-free bubble for Ben because there has been so much mainstream attention surrounding the peanut allergy epidemic, will I live to see a day when science recognizes that detergent is harmful to the health of everyone and it will be systematically removed? Or will this just be something my kids deal with for life. Will we have to refrain from having playdates at our house forever? What does this mean for our family? The questions are flooding in now, and I’m overwhelmed, but all the work in the world is nothing for my sweet babies. As long as they are without pain, it’s all worth it.
I can’t stop talking about what’s happened to our family in the last few days because I am just flooded with emotion. It’s been well documented here that my children suffer from eczema, and though I rarely post pictures of them here on my blog anymore, if you follow me on facebook or instagram, you may have seen pictures of them recently.
Truth be told, I stopped posting most pictures of Landon and Adalyn several months back, and if I did ever post, it was carefully selected and highly edited until about a week or two ago, when I decided my children were beautiful and nothing to be hidden! But I stopped posting pictures awhile back because I just didn’t want to hear it. I know that comes off so crazy rude, but it’s hard - draining - when you know what your child looks like, but everywhere you go, everyone has to remind you of how horrifying they look. Everyone has an opinion. It’s not that opinions aren’t desired, because obviously, if my kids are still suffering from eczema, we haven’t found the solution. It’s just tiring. When you get to the point where you feel like you really have tried it all, when someone suggests something, the first place my brain goes is to, “Yeah, right, like that’ll work.”
So it was with skepticism that I entered solveeczema.org on Friday. But in a place of desperation because my kids’ skin has gotten so terrible, I read on. Minutes into the slideshow on her front page, I began to cry. I was totally overwhelmed because everything in my being said YES! CHELSEA, THIS IS IT!!!!!!!!!! The detergent in your home is making your kids sick.
It started with the description of the mom who had done it all over the course of about four years: elimination diets, naturopath, every cream and steroid, herbs, chinese medicine, you name it, she’d done it. Then I read about the diaper-eczema correlation and immediately, light bulbs went off. Ben and Adalyn were cloth diapered. Ben had pretty bad eczema on his face and in his diaper area from about one year to a little before two. Adalyn had no eczema anywhere but her diaper area (which I now know in hindsight, but I always thought it was just a bad diaper rash). Shortly after Landon was born, I became overwhelmed with three children three and under, two in diapers and two of them 17 months apart, and I gave away our cloth diapers and decided we were going to turn to disposables. Since then, Adalyn has had no diaper rashes or eczema in her diaper area.
The diaper protects skin from detergent, since the diaper is on almost all of the time and there is no detergent in disposable diapers. But when my kiddos were in cloth, they had that same detergent in their diaper area as they have elsewhere. Who would have thought that something I was doing to be more considerate to my children’s skin and the environment was actually more harmful for them? It blows my mind a little.
This was extremely compelling for me. As was all the information presented on this site. This is not a normal “mommy blog.” This is a very knowledgable, empowered mother with a science background who resolved to stop at nothing to solve her son’s eczema, and thanks to lots of trial and error and reading a book by T. Brazelton, Touchpoints, she and her husband developed a theory that the introduction of detergent in the 50s correlated quite well with the rising of eczema occurrences. As more products became detergent-based (almost every wash/body care product/”soap”/cleaning product today contains detergent), the incidence of eczema, allergies and asthma began to climb. And as these three diseases are known as the allergy march or the atopic march, curing eczema is beneficial not just in the short-term, but in preventing our children from having to endure asthma in the future.
They tested this theory out by removing detergent from their home (not an easy or quick solution), and when they saw dramatic results, they began a dive into incredibly thorough research, talking to experts all over the world. They’ve consulted biologists, chemists, doctors, dermatologist, etc. I believe quite strongly that they have stumbled across the single factor creating the eczema/asthma/allergy epidemic we see today. Perhaps that’s short-sighted because it looks like it’s proving to be our solution, but she has quite a following of mamas who have also healed their children from not only eczema, but asthma, too!
Friday night I went shopping for paper towels, Dr. Bronner’s, new toothpaste, body soap, laundry soap, shampoo, hair gel, etc. I came home and whipped up cleaning products using vinegar, water, baking soda and Dr. Bronner’s. Only soap can remove detergent residue so I knew it was important to start by cleaning all surfaces with Dr. Bronner’s but then going over them with a water/vinegar solution to keep my whole house from being sticky: check out her recommended procedure here.
A friend came over Saturday morning and helped me scrub down my house. I began the process of “superwashing” all clothes and linens in our house with Zum laundry soap (which contains no detergent) and cleaning all our dishes with Dr. Bronner’s to remove the detergent residue. Finally, we washed the kiddos and ourselves in Dr. Bronner’s and lathered them up in coconut oil (I’m not big on Aquaphor because it’s petroleum-based, but that’s the “barrier moisture” she recommends). I’m not anywhere close to being done cleaning out my house, but already we’ve seen drastic results. It is nothing short of miraculous, and when I think about how I broke down to God on Thursday afternoon in the shower, desperate for relief for my miserable children, and I prayed that He would heal my children or help me heal them, and then on Friday I found a site I’ve never before stumbled across after years of research? It’s just…all Him.
I couldn’t get this blog post up fast enough! A lot of people stumble across my old post about Ben’s facial rash, so I wanted to be able to update my blogaroo so that I can drive traffic to solveeczema.org. The site is amazing, and I really, truly believe this is the answer for so many families who have been struggling unnecessarily for ages with eczema or asthma or quite frankly, even allergies.
It is A LOT of work. There’s no way to sugarcoat that. But it’s an all-or-nothing ordeal. You can’t halfway do it and expect to cure your kids. Her take is that it has to be 100% removal or you might as well do nothing. So we will be homebound for a month, attempting to heal their skin so that it becomes strong enough to resist short, infrequent exposures to detergent at places like church, friends houses, the store, etc.
Here are a few recent pictures of Landon and Adalyn:
And here they are a few days after beginning the process of elimination.
The picture on the left was taken a couple of days before we began eliminating detergent, and the one on the right was today:
The moral of the story is don’t give up! I have seen stories of so many moms who have resorted to things like steroids which carry pretty serious side effects and don’t even rid the body of eczema (or asthma or allergies), but cut down on the outbreaks. This mama’s take, and mine for AGES, has always been that these things are our body’s way of telling us something is wrong. To mask the symptoms with steroid creams really doesn’t solve anything. In fact, it often times exacerbates the problem because you are weakening the immune system. In a similar fashion, we have given one child antibiotics one time and it has irrevocably changed her gut. There is a time and a place for medicine, and I will always utilize it when I feel it’s severe enough, but this is the exact reason I tend to listen to my gut first and go with God’s medicine before man’s. It always made sense to me that to mask the symptoms was doing nothing inside of their little bodies. I was eager to give them relief, though, so I did try a lot of creams and oils and such. But I couldn’t shake how odd it felt to be slathering chemicals all over my children’s severe, inflamed, red, burning, bleeding skin. It was so incredibly counter-intuitive.
From her site:
The global problem of eczema has not been understood or solved by a long shot. In my opinion, taking the common perspective that eczema is the result of a defect inherent in the child is destructive, unwarranted, unscientific, and premature. This defect-perspective has led to virtually every treatment and approach: adding lotion to make up for the defect of dryness, suppressing the immune system to address a supposed malfunction, recommending random experimentation with different personal care products with the underlying assumption that the child’s system has gone haywire and can’t handle “normal” products. None of these approaches has resulted in a lasting, global solution. Perhaps the perspective is right; I personally don’t see it that way. I think the perspective that the problem is a defect in the children leads naturally to these less-than-satisfactory approaches. At the least, until there are more definitive answers, we owe it to the children to keep an open mind.
My son would not have had eczema had we lived 80 years ago, because detergents didn’t exist on the planet. When his skin is not exposed to detergents, it is normal and not unusually dry. For whatever reason, his system chooses to tell me that exposure to detergents is a problem, the same way my body chooses to tell me that banging my knee against the corner of the desk is a problem. From that perspective, the response is a normal warning mechanism, a smart way for the immune system to communicate with the conscious brain, the way the nervous system communicates through pain. I don’t see that as a defect.”
My gut says that if so many children are reacting to this, it can’t be good for anyone. I’ve used this analogy time and time again, but I can think of no better time for it than now: sensitive children are like canaries in a coal mine. They’re out warning that something is wrong. Perhaps I’m off-base, but I believe it bears further studying.
Be your child’s best advocate. Fight for them despite the lack of knowledge in the medical community surrounding eczema. Whatever your child’s health problem is, do your own research. Experiment in your own home. Never give up! Always go with your gut.
I’m not the only person seeing incredible results here. This is the original blog I stumbled upon that pointed me to solveeczema.org and how I found it to begin with.